Journal of Religious Ethics 30 (3):373-397 (2002)

The authors of the "Saṃnyāsa Upaniṣads", manuals of ascetic lifestyle and practice, recommend that wanderers renounce behavioral standards of their formerly Brahmin householder life, including ritual purity and familial duties. Patrick Olivelle argues that these ascetics are thereafter considered impure and corpse- or ghoul-like, clearly lacking in dharma. However, these Upanisads counsel pursuing mental purity and moral behavior, and modeling oneself after the perfection of the Absolute. This essay investigates ascetic notions of purity and identity, and virtues such as non-violence and kindness cultivated in forest isolation. Is ascetic dharma universal in intent, and is it conceptually opposed to householder dharma? What type of ethics is admired by the authors, what type deprecated? Olivelle's position is reevaluated, as is Jeffrey Kripal's notion that monistic mysticism does not support ethics adequately.
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DOI 10.1111/1467-9795.00114
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